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Sunday, 12 April 2015 00:00

Heading down to Owen Sound

EK owen sound1OWEN SOUND -- Take a map of Ontario. locate this town on beautiful Georgian Bay, on the easterly shore of Lake Huron. Now rotate the map 90 degrees clockwise so that west is at the top and, with very little imagination, you’ll see why it’s known as The Elephant’s Bum! (Or words to that effect!) 




That little piece of geographical trivia was one of the few things I learned in Sheridan College that has remained stuck in my memory for nearly 40 years. It was imparted to me by Steve, a Sheridan College classmate and former Sarnia Observer colleague. 

Steve lives in his hometown with his wife Paula and their two daughters. After a gypsy career in journalism much like my own, he returned to Owen Sound where indulges his love of golfing and skiing in this year-round recreation area. 

It’s said that if you can find a way to do the things you love and get paid for it, you’ll never have to work a day in your life! Well, after a roving existence as a reporter and editor, including a brief stint at The Cobourg Star, my now-defunct hometown paper, 

Steve has fashioned a comfortable career doing what he loves and is now settled down in the Sound with his wife and children and most of his large extended family. He’s publisher and editor and ad salesman and marketer and just about everything else of Grey-Bruce Golf, which is, as it‘s name suggests, all about golf in the Bruce Peninsula and Grey County. It's celebrating its 10th anniversary this year!

“I love to write and publish, take pictures and golf,” he told me as we strolled around the city’s busy marina. “Not everybody gets to make a living at that.” 

The 30 years or so since we last met melted away as we caught up on lives, wives, careers, the folks we know and the folks we’ve become. That continues to be the very essence of this 16,000-kilometer motorcycle ride down memory lane.

I spent my time in Sault Ste. Marie, my last stop on Lake Superior, taking it easy. I had been in touch with my Edmonton friend Kerry, a native son of the The Soo. He gave me a few sightseeing suggestions including a visit to Crystal Falls in the Hiawatha Highlands that rise up from the edge of the city. 

It’s a great motorcycle ride in the hill country that leads to Kinsmen Park and the rugged little falls. I really enjoyed climbing the rustic walking trail to the top, but I’m reminded that this trip has left little time for exercise and I’m getting awfully soft!! Must watch that! (He says as he adds that he stopped for a great ice cream cone, which I’m told is a required part of the Hiawatha Highlands experience! 

I bid adieu to The Soo early on Thursday, leaving it and the vastness of Lake Superior behind. As I rode along the North Channel, which is separated from the rest of Lake Huron by Manitoulin Island, it was one of my earliest childhood memories that held my attention.

Owen SoundI was headed through some very picturesque landscapes of yet more rocks and trees and lakes that have still not become boring or repetitive, even though it was my fifth day of riding around Lake Superior. I stopped for gas in Thessalon and coffee in Blind Riveras ON Hwy. 17 followed the meandering shoreline.



I made a short stop to watch the Colombia-Cote d’Ivoire World Cup match in Marshalls, a friendly little dive of a bar in Espanola. I also stopped in to visit with Jon, a retired former publisher with Thomson Newspapers. Over a beer, we chatted under a maple tree at his lakeside home in the picturesque village of Willisville. I also took time to get a bandage for my right hand.

Owen SoundAs I was turning off ON Hwy. 6, I dropped my right arm to shake off a cramp. A bird chose that exact moment to hit my hand and even though there wasn't a mark on my leather glove, I had a puncture wound that bled enough to make me worry about my throttle hand. However, no swelling, no bruising and the cut's healing nicely!

After reluctantly leaving the comfort of Jon's yard, I was back on 6 and bound for Little Current, the largest town on Manitoulin Island, the largest freshwater lake island in the world. My dad took me there when he had a landscaping contract in September 1964, a rare thing for him to do. 


Neither he nor my mother are still alive, so there’s no one left to ask what his motivation was. One memory that stands out from that trip was a huge black bear pelt attached to the wall of a log-built building that might have been a bakery. Despite driving around the town for a half-hour I was unable to locate anything I remembered and no one that I asked had been in town for 50 years or could remember such a place. 

I had arrived in the mostly aboriginal community more correctly known as Eastern Manitoulin and The Islands just in time to catch England v Uruguay, featuring five players from Liverpool Football Club and two more on the Uruguayan side, including their brilliant striker Luis Suarez! Sadly, Suarez and Co. prevailed, preventing his English teammates from advancing to the final rounds of the competition.

Owen SoundAt the Anchor Inn Hotel, I had a great supper of tacos made with freshly caught local whitefish, forgetting that cilantro, a key ingredient, and I do not get along. Afterward, I spent time with a bunch of local bikers including a local aboriginal club including a dreadlocked native guy named Steve, who had invited me to a bike show-and-shine. I showed, sadly without a camera, but did not shine. 

Early next morning, I hit the road for the 36-kilometre run to South Baymouth and the ferry MS Chi-Cheemaun to Tobermorey. Arriving on the Bruce Peninsula after six days in the wildness and wilderness of The Lakehead, even the air seemed different as I rode off the ferry after a two-hour crossing.



EK owen sound5Any wilderness on this side of the hasn’t really been wild for two, sometimes three hundred years! It’s been logged, farmed, grazed and ploughed into submission. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t wildlife. The road was littered with the carcasses of racoons, porcupines, deer, birds, and oh lord, so many skunks it took a while to lose that stench! 


Dreadlocked Steve had advised me to get off the straight-as-an-arrow ON Hwy. 6 and take Road 9. Unfortunately, I got off 6 too soon and ended up in Dyers’ Bay and was told any connector would be washboard gravel road. Not for me or the Beemer!

The 15-kilometer round-trip wild goose chase turned out to be anything but! What I thought was an emu walking through a farmer’s field eating worms in the fresh-turned earth turned out of be one of a flock of about a dozen sandhill cranes! Huge birds with brownish bodies and a crake like a Hollywood pterodactyl!! They took flight as soon as they heard the quiet BMW K1200 LT and flew off before I could take a picture.

I continued on into the busy little town of Wiarton where I did a load of laundry between bites of a turkey-cranberry-brie panino at the funky Cocoa Vanilla bistro. Yummy. I asked my server about Wiarton Willie, the region’s other tourist draw. “Willie’s in hiding after the winter we had,” I was told, so no pix of the albino rodent-turned-weatherman. 

Then on to the Elephant’s, er, Bum where I was welcomed by Steve and Paula, a native Cape Bretoner whom I’d never met. We had a great visit and I’m grateful for their hospitality.

Owen SoundWe talked well into the night and the next day, Paula headed off with a girlfriend to poke around model show homes in nearby Collingwood looking for design ideas for their upcoming kitchen renovations. Steve and I got off to a more leisurely visit to Collingwood‘s Blue Mountain ski area. One vista offered look out over Georgian Bay as far as Midland, a 60-kilometer drive away. And I’m not talking about a tee-shot! 

The day was hot and dry and the views magnificent. After meeting up with the girls and a visit to even more show homes, we separated. Paula and Julie went back to Owen Sound and Steve and I had lunch/supper in Whistler-like Collingwood Village. 

Owen SoundPerhaps in keeping with the World Cup in Brazil, it was “salsa day” in the village and the sounds of the marimba band followed us onto the pond-side patio of kaytoo, a trendy spot with a killer view of Blue Mountain’s now-grassy ski runs. I can heartily recommend the pulled-pork sarnie, but a word of caution about the heavily salted fries. I think I drank my own weight in water afterwards. 

Next morning, I was up just after dawn and riding in brilliant sunshine down the eastern shore of lake Huron to Sarnia. More on that in a later post. 

Please gie some thought to making a donation to the Ride for Sight. I’m going to visit their office in Toronto when I get there and I’d like to show them as big a donation number as possible! Thanks!


Last modified on Thursday, 16 April 2015 04:05

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